Good Housekeeping Gets a Facelift

Redesigned magazine aims for more fun, less housekeeping

Headshot of Emma Bazilian

Women browsing the magazine racks at the supermarket checkout line are in for a big shock: The iconic Good Housekeeping logo is no more. The nearly 130-year-old monthly is getting a major face-lift with its January issue, featuring a new layout, new content and, yes, a very new cover. As far as magazine revamps go, this isn’t subtle.

Before embarking on the redesign, GH spent a full year doing research on its readers, both current and prospective. With the help of The Futures Group and Yankelovich, they began by interviewing focus groups in four different markets across the country, then expanded to an online poll, and finally broadened their scope in a larger online survey. What they found was that women’s response to the economic environment was shifting. Early in the recession, said editor in chief Rosemary Ellis, “women felt virtuous. They didn’t take vacations for a couple of years, they nested more—now they’re sick of that. They want to have fun.”

Bringing more “fun” into GH was given top priority in the redesign. “From our research, we knew that we owned trust, but what we didn't own was fun,” said svp, group publisher Pat Haegele. “Our magazine in the past was a little too much work. We gave our reader a lot of ideas to declutter her closet and make a great meal, but she walked away thinking she had work to do.”

Everything from the magazine’s flow (the feature well was discarded and content separated into seven sections like Good Life and Good Food) to its story layout (shorter articles, more infographics and sidebars) to art direction (larger photos, brighter colors) was designed to provide more fun in the reading experience. There’s less parenting content—during the research phase, GH found that moms wanted to be spoken to as women first, not as parents—and expanded beauty coverage. Social media’s influence can be seen in the addition of reader feedback, which now appears throughout the magazine.

Ellis knew that the concept of service also had to be redefined for an age where almost any household dilemma can be solved with a quick Google search. The new GH puts the focus on the “service of discovery,” which Ellis describes as “a really useful piece of information that doubles as cocktail party information.” (Fun fact: Did you know that you can use chalk dust to keep silver utensils from tarnishing?)

One of the most drastic changes is the new logo. During the research process, Ellis was surprised to learn that the word “housekeeping” was a major turn-off for prospective (read: younger) readers. So in order to make it seem more “approachable and fun” on the magazine’s cover, the word was put in handwriting font and made less prominent in the logo.

Although young women had responded negatively to the word “housekeeping,” they still valued the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. In the revamped magazine, the seal is now much more prominent, appearing on the cover and throughout the pages in stories where institute testing was used. Elements of the seal, like the star, oval and typeface, were incorporated into each section’s opening page. (The Seal of Approval plays a big role in a Digimarc campaign that will run in January’s issue: 20 participating seal advertisers are incorporating watermarked versions of the seal in their ads, which readers can then scan to win prizes.)

Advertising was strong throughout the new issue, with ad pages up 30 percent. (According to Haegele, there was major improvement in several key categories, such as beauty, which rose 100 percent.) The overhaul is also getting positive reaction from media buyers, like Robin Steinberg, evp, director, publishing investment and activation at MediaVest, who described it as a “true redesign” that’s “fresh, modern, clean and clearly different.”

“It will keep the current reader engaged while providing the opportunity for new readers to enter,” said Steinberg. “The brand voice, essence and integrity remain intact while providing the consumer with better navigation and color palettes that make the pages really pop.”

To introduce the revamped magazine to the public, ads for “the new Good Housekeeping” are appearing on buses throughout New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and beginning Dec. 17, a consumer campaign targeted at women 25-44 kicks off with TV spots on networks like Lifetime and in-store displays.

@adweekemma Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.